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Sen. Jon Ossoff talks funding for law enforcement, mental health services

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Sen. Jon Ossoff talks funding for law enforcement, mental health services

U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff held a press conference on Tuesday, Aug. 16, outside the DeKalb County Police Headquarters to talk about funding for law enforcement and mental health services. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Tucker, GA — United States Sen. Jon Ossoff visited DeKalb County on Tuesday, Aug. 16, and announced that legislation he sponsored related to funding for law enforcement and mental health services has passed the Senate and House of Representatives.

He anticipates President Joe Biden will sign the bill in the coming weeks and funding will be available to local governments in the next few months.

The bill, sponsored by Ossoff and Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, will fund training for first responders, crisis intervention teams, mental health courts, and other programs to help law enforcement help individuals experiencing mental illness, according to a press release.

“We want to make sure that our first responders have all of the training resources and support that they need when they encounter somebody in a mental health crisis for that situation to be resolved in a way that is safe for everybody, that is safe for the individual who’s in crisis, that’s safe for our first responders, whether they be law enforcement or emergency medical personnel,” Ossoff said during a press conference on Aug. 16. “We want to ensure that amidst a mental health crisis in this country, we are adequately resourcing and robustly resourcing mental health services for those who encounter the criminal justice system.”

The legislation will also fund new training to help first responders better recognize and assist someone suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or a traumatic brain injury. It will additionally require a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for law enforcement and first responders who may have suffered a traumatic brain injury in the line of duty.

“This legislation, which again has now passed the Senate and the House, will make grants available to local governments and local law enforcement agencies and local healthcare systems for the purpose of ensuring that law enforcement and mental health services in our communities are strong,” Ossoff said.

He also encouraged local governments “to prepare to apply for funds through these programs that I’m authorizing in this bipartisan legislation to ensure that first responders, law enforcement officers have the training necessary to safely and successfully enter situations where someone may be in a mental health crisis, and to ensure that facilities of incarceration, be they jails or prisons, have the resources that they safely, successfully manage when they encounter individuals who are in mental health crisis…,” Ossoff said

DeKalb County Sheriff Melody Maddox joined Ossoff during a press conference on Tuesday and thanked the senator for his work on the legislation.

“Oftentimes our law enforcement, sheriff, and emergency personnel are the first to respond to emergencies involving a mental health crisis and that’s where Sen. Ossoff’s leadership comes in,” Maddox said. “Sen. Ossoff’s bipartisan bill, which as passed [Congress] and heads to the president’s desk, will fund our local law enforcement agencies and boost funding for mental health issues.”

The legislation will help make communities safer and help first responders deal with challenges that arise when responding to a 911 call, Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-04) said.

“Oftentimes they don’t know what they will face, and sometimes they end up facing a person who is in a mental health crisis, so this legislation is going to aid public safety and aid our first responders by funding first responders and crisis intervention teams that will assist in these calls that our first responders respond to,” Johnson said.

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